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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Tennis Picks 2020 (February 25th)

Without a doubt I have just been through the worst week in three years for the Tennis Picks which meant I needed to take a couple of days off to really reset.

It can be a mental strain when you feel like you are having the kind of luck I was last week (four players lost matches in which they won more points which is really is tough to take over the course of a month let alone a few days), while multiple times I can up short by a game here or there.

Things can be frustrating and especially when it has almost completely wiped out the season totals that had been built through the first seven weeks of the season. I have no doubt that the system is still a solid one and I was not chasing anything, but I do hope to see some better fortune in the remainder of this week and going into the short break before Indian Wells and Miami Masters events get going.

But as I have said many times through the good and the bad, the season is a long one and it is all about bouncing back from a setback and looking for a better all around effort. This week we have three really big events being played in Acapulco, Dubai and Doha and there is no reason to want to beat yourself up for one truly horrific week in three seasons. The last time this happened was in Indian Wells in 2017 and it was the kind of week which made me change direction with the selections that paid dividends ever since.

I am not convinced I need to do that yet, but some adjustments should always be made to try and stay ahead of the curve and make sure we have a lot more profits than negative returns from these selections.

I will be looking for a much better week beginning with Tuesday Tennis selections. I will update the season totals on Wednesday when updating this thread with any selections from the tournament being played in Acapulco this week.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Benoit Paire: The First Round continues in Dubai where the ATP Tour have taken over from the WTA Tour and this is an interesting match between Marin Cilic and Benoit Paire. Both players might already have seen their best tennis days behind them, but both have played at a higher level to open the 2020 season compared with how they were performing in 2019.

Of course it is still a long season coming up and there will be some difficult moments, but Marin Cilic and Benoit Paire have to be encouraged by what they have done so far. Neither has had a very good month to be honest, but I do think the overall performances have not been too bad.

There does look to be a slight edge with Marin Cilic in the match having held 88% of his service games on the hard courts compared with Benoit Paire's 82% mark. In recent years the Frenchman has struggled to hold more than 80% of the service games played on this surface and I do think Cilic has the edge on that side of his game.

To double down on it, Cilic has also been the superior return player of the two although we have seen Benoit Paire produce the better numbers in 2020 so far. The two players have won a similar percentage of return points, but Benoit Paire has managed breaks in 22% of return games compared with Marin Cilic's 17% mark.

The numbers have been tighter when Benoit Paire has been facing opponents Ranked in the top 100 and I do think the head to head can come into play in this match too. Marin Cilic has won five of the previous six matches between these players and four of those wins have come on the hard courts including at the Australian Open last month.

It is Marin Cilic who has held 87% of the service games played on the hard courts between these players and that is compared to Benoit Paire being at 73% mark. Even at the Australian Open it was Cilic winning 87% of service games played compared with Paire's 75% number and I do think the Croatian can come out on top in this First Round match with the conditions in Dubai likely to suit him a little more than the flashy Frenchman too.

Hubert Hurkacz - 2.5 games v Alexander Bublik: Only four months separate these two young players on the Tour who are hoping that they are going to be able to make a significant impact over the course of the 2020 season. Hubert Hurkacz has just turned 23 years old and will be joined by Alexander Bublik in June and both are Ranked inside the top 50 in the World Rankings.

Both can point to one run to the Semi Finals on the hard courts already in 2020, although Bublik's run came last week in Marseille where he was downed by eventual Champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. Neither player has really had a consistent season, but both have hit peak career Rankings this month as they prepare to progress on the Tour.

There are very similar numbers being produced by Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Bublik on the serve with both winning 63% of points behind that shot. At the moment it is Hurkacz who has been able to secure a very slightly higher percentage of games behind serve, but the real difference maker may be on the returning side of the sport where the Pole looks to be significantly stronger.

It is Hurkacz who has been breaking in 22% of return games compared with Bublik who is down at below 16% and that may be where this match is won and lost.

Alexander Bublik's returning numbers take another dent when playing top 50 Ranked opponents, but that has not been the case for Hubert Hurkacz. I do think the latter needs to work out how to get a little more out of his serve against the better players he meets on the Tour, but in general that feels like an area that may be easier to improve than the return like Bublik has to work out.

There also hasn't been a lot of time for Bublik to recover from his exploits in Marseille on Saturday and be able to head over to Dubai and acclimatise here. That may be another factor in this First Round match and I will look for Hubert Hurkacz to win and cover the mark.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Jan-Lennard Struff: This is only the second tournament Roberto Bautista Agut is playing since the Australian Open and he was disappointed to lose early in Rotterdam this month. He was the better player on the day, but Bautista Agut is going to have to be strong from the off when he begins his campaign in Dubai.

He is the favourite to beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the First Round as the German has lost three matches in a row. We do see Struff at close to his career best World Ranking, but it has been a difficult start to 2020 where he is holding 82% of service games played and broken in 20% of return games.

The draws have not really helped his cause, but Struff can serve very well on his day which will make him dangerous.

Roberto Bautista Agut will feel his own serve can at least put Struff on the back-foot in this one and keep him under some pressure. The Spaniard has held in 86% of service games played on the hard courts in 2019 and that mark has been slightly improved to 87% in 2020 which has allowed Bautista Agut to let his stronger return game take over.

Over the last fourteen months Bautista Agut has broken in 25% of return games played on the hard courts and that is a mark that is significantly stronger than this opponent. It should give Bautista Agut a strong opportunity to win this match and cover the handicap mark, especially when you think of how previous matches have gone between these players.

They haven't met since 2018 so you do have to keep in mind the improvements that Jan-Lennard Struff has made, but Roberto Bautista Agut has won all three previous matches between these two. In those it is Bautista Agut who has held 88% of the service games played compared with Struff's mark of 48% and the Spaniard may be too strong for him here.

I expect Struff to have much better service numbers than he has in previous matches against Bautista Agut, but it still may not be good enough against the in-form top 20 Ranked player.

Iga Swiatek - 2.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: She may remain a pretty strong hard court player, but Svetlana Kuznetsova has been dealing with injuries over the last eighteen months which has limited her time on the court. A dominant win in the First Round will have given the veteran some confidence, but this is a very tough match against an up and coming player on the Tour who looks capable of going as far as she wants.

Iga Swiatek beat Donna Vekic in straight sets in the First Round and at 18 years old she has already cracked the top 50 of the World Rankings. Injuries ended her 2019 season a little early, but Swiatek has returned in 2020 in good form and her numbers over the last twelve months on the hard courts have been impressive.

She has an underrated serve and I do think this is going to be a big part of her game going forward as she develops further. It is a weapon that is well backed by Iga Swiatek's return game and I do think it will put her in a position to win this Second Round match.

I do have to respect the way Svetlana Kuznetsova has been able to perform on this surface and I do think she will have her successes within this match. The Russian still has a strong first serve, but her second serve has been vulnerable in the matches played in 2020 and I do think that is an area in which Iga Swiatek can have her way with Kuznetsova.

Both players have had similar return numbers, but Iga Swiatek has a slight advantage over Svetlana Kuznetsova in that department too and I do think the younger player is going to have the edge in this match. It might go three sets with the tennis that Kuznetsova can produce at times, but Iga Swiatek may still have too much for her and can cover this number.

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Hubert Hurkacz - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Iga Swiatek - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sofia Kenin - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Alison Van Uytvanck + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Elise Mertens - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Season 2020: + 0.52 Units (325 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Boxing Picks 2020- Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury 2 (February 22nd)

It has been a long time since we have seen a Heavyweight Fight of the kind of stature as the one we are getting on Saturday night from Las Vegas.

Things always seem to feel that much more important when an American fighter is the 'A Side' of the event, but Tyson Fury is more than just a hyped up European Boxer and he could be the very best of this generation.

Deontay Wilder will have something to say about that and anything like the first fight will set up a potential trilogy this summer in exactly the manner we would want to see.

You can go to my Instagram page to see a video that captured THAT moment in the Twelfth Round and the link to that is here.

Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury 2
This is essentially a 50-50 pick 'em and I can't argue with that at all.

There is a real case that can be made for either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury to have their hand raised at the end of this rematch, but I think it makes a lot of sense for people to either believe it is going to be a Wilder KO or a Fury Points Decision.

The intrigue has really been built up from the first fight when Fury largely outboxed the American WBC Champion, but it was Wilder's power that scored two Knock Downs and eventually the Draw on the cards. I thought Fury had done enough to win the fight to be honest, but it wasn't a massive surprise when a Split Decision Draw was announced.

A third fight has already been signed off so I don't think we will see that same kind of controversy this time, but it is interesting to hear that Tyson Fury wants to change his tactics as much as he says he does. Some of that is down to mind games and I would not be shocked to see him box and work his way to another Decision, but the weight put on is suggesting Fury has not be making things up.

Deontay Wilder is also a lot heavier as he looks to hold his own in the clinches and perhaps just avoid being sapped by the weightier Fury in those up close and personal moments.

I've always felt that the second time an elite fighter would get to see Tyson Fury they would be much better prepared for what is an amazing style for someone as big as the 'Gypsy King' is. You really can't figure that out when just watching the tape, but I do think Deontay Wilder is going to be better for having had that first fight and the fact he managed to force Fury to hit the canvas twice in the last four Rounds is telling for me.

Of course I do think Fury will be better having been much more active now than when the first fight was signed, and I am not reading too much into the last two performances as he feels like a Boxer who will be better against the better competition faced.

However you can't ignore the 47 stitches he needed after the win over Otto Wallin and I would not be surprised if that is a problem in this one. I would hope it is not the case, but Fury has not given as much time for that to heal as you would want.

A move in trainer and gym clouds things a little more as Tyson Fury says he wants to sit down on his punches and stop the Knock Out artist that is in front of him and it all just makes things as intriguing as you like.

This is going to be a big fight that I am going to enjoy- my gut feeling is that Wilder is going to find an answer in a fight that is either going to be controversial with the Fury cut reopening and seeing the referee/doctor step in, or Tyson Fury will be winning on the cards before Wilder finds the eraser of a punch which has seen him come through battles with Luis Ortiz over the last two years.

Either of those conclusions will at least keep people interested for a trilogy fight too, but I can't recommend either fighter here and instead will have a cold one and enjoy the entire occasion.

There is an undercard in place which is perhaps not as strong as some would have hoped.

Emanuel Navarrete is one of those on the undercard who looks like he could be the best fighter in his Division and will be searching for Unification fights to prove that. He might soon be going up to the Featherweight limit where more big fights would await, but on Saturday he should blow past his opponent without being overly taxed and the layers feel the same.

We will also have a crossroads fight at Heavyweight where Charles Martin, the fighter deposed as IBF Champion by Anthony Joshua, and Gerald Washington look to move back into a contender status. It is Martin who looks the more capable and I think he will win by stoppage against Washington who looks like he is not as confident in taking the big shots as his opponent may be.

I am not sure Charles Martin is as big a puncher as his 24 Knock Outs in 27 wins would suggest, but he has enough pop and I think he could get this done within the first six Rounds.

MY PICKS: Relax and enjoy the main event!

Boxing Picks 2020: 0-2, - 4 Units (4 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 22-24)

It feels like the last Fantasy Football deadline was 'months' ago with the Winter Break meaning the last GameWeek was spread over two weekends.

The week wasn't a bad one, although it was also not a great one and I will have more thoughts about that below. Before that I will have a few thoughts about the Premier League fixtures to be played this weekend.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Most people will be predicting goals when Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur meet in the early fixture on Saturday afternoon, but there are likely going to be some key attacking players missing for both teams.

Both clubs are coming in off a loss and there is just a point separating them in the Premier League table so this is a very big game for Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea have had longer to prepare, but Frank Lampard is struggling to find the balance he wants from his team, while Tottenham Hotspur are still being moulded into a shape Jose Mourinho will like to see. It makes it a tough game to predict, but Chelsea as odds on is as baffling as I thought it was when they hosted Manchester United on Monday.

However neither team is creating a lot of chances at the moment which is perhaps not a surprise considering the kind of players missing. It could mean both Lampard and Mourinho are looking to set their teams up to be hard to beat and try and steal something from set pieces or asking for a player to create a moment of magic to separate them on the day.

At odds against I will look for fewer than three goals to be produced with the feeling that one of these teams might actually struggle to hit the back of the net.

Burnley v Bournemouth Pick: Both Burnley and Bournemouth have had some recent successes in the Premier League which will give them some belief, although Bournemouth are coming off a two week break in which they will have been thinking about blowing the lead at Sheffield United.

This is a difficult test for Bournemouth who have not played as well away from home as they have in front of their own fans, although the attacking options that are available to them makes them dangerous. The Cherries have Josh King back and they have been creating chances, although defensively there remain some major concerns that have to be fixed.

Eddie Howe has had two weeks to work on improving the defensive performances of the side, but Burnley have also been creating a few chances. However, the bigger factor for Burnley is they have been clinical in front of goal which means they should be able to punish their visitors.

Teams are still creating chances against Burnley too and 7 of the last 9 between these clubs have finished with both teams scoring. The more recent fixtures have seen Bournemouth fail to score in 2 of the last 3 against Burnley, but with Callum Wilson and Josh King up front they should have opportunities in this fixture too.

Both teams should have enough in the final third to at least hit the back of the net in this fixture and that is the best angle to approach this game.

Crystal Palace v Newcastle United Pick: This is honestly one of the toughest games to call this weekend as neither team can point to a consistent avenue for goals.

At the same time neither has been watertight at the back and it may take a VAR intervention or an unfortunate bounce of the ball to separate them on the day.

Gun to the head I would probably back the draw, but it is a very difficult match to be confident about.

Sheffield United v Brighton Pick: Coming from 0-1 down to beat Bournemouth 2-1 at home two weeks ago was an important result for Sheffield United who have sometimes lacked goals despite their obvious good play into the final third. It is a result that will give the players belief that they can finish this exceptional season with a European place, and some will even be thinking of a potential Champions League spot if the CAS upholds the decision to ban Manchester City from the top competition in European club football.

Chris Wilder is a straight talking kind of manager though and I very much doubt any European prospects are not discussed on the training ground and instead it is all about focus. The Blades have had two weeks to prepare for this game and they will believe any kind of consistent end to the season will bring its own rewards.

The same can be said for Brighton who will have spent time trying to recharge batteries and get ready for the relegation fight that is in front of them. They have not won any in 7 games in all competitions which will put Brighton under pressure, but the points earned against West Ham United and Watford prior to the Winter Break could still be all-important when the final standings are produced in mid-May.

Games like this one are important for Brighton even if anything they earn will be considered a bonus- with twelve games left any against a team that is not called Liverpool or Manchester City have to be seen as ones from which points can be earned.

Brighton have played well at times and they do create chances, but the defence has suffered with the new style of play and Sheffield United can take advantage. For all the praise the home team deserve, they are a team that will offer up chances as they take risks getting forward, and I would not be surprised if this is a fixture that produces three or more goals shared out.

Neither is a team that is scoring a lot of goals, but the 1-1 might only suit Brighton and Sheffield United's attacking instincts could see them rally as they did against Bournemouth two weeks ago. Backing at least three goals to be shared out at odds against looks the play.

Southampton v Aston Villa Pick: This is a very important game for both Southampton and Aston Villa and I have no doubt at all that both managers will send their teams out fully believing this is a winnable fixture.

6 points separate these teams and with twelve League games to play there is no doubting how important the three points on offer can be.

Southampton have had a strong couple of months which has seen them progress up the standings, but recent results and performances have just come off the kind of standard they had been producing. They have not been creating as many chances and that is a problem when coupled with the fact that Southampton continue to look vulnerable at the back.

They will feel they can hurt an Aston Villa team who have not been able to put consistent defensive performances in all season. However it does have to be said that Dean Smith's team have really shown some strong attacking potential of late and in Mbwana Samatta they look to have someone who can lead the line and give the attacking players around him the chance to play off him.

Aston Villa have struggled away from home which can't be ignored, but they have been competitive in recent weeks. They have looked the stronger team in the final third when attacking of late, and I think that gives them a chance against what looks a very short priced Southampton team.

Backing Aston Villa with a full goal start should be enough to at least earn a push, but I would not be stunned if The Villains can earn something here.

Leicester City v Manchester City Pick: All of the talk coming out of Manchester City is that they are positive they are going to overturn the UEFA ban that was handed out last week and will mean two seasons without European competition. Pep Guardiola is trying to make sure his players are focused on the field and he has set out a target of winning the last three competitions they have a realistic chance of winning.

He has also pointed out he wants Manchester City to finish 2nd in the Premier League and a win on Saturday will go a long way to doing that. However you can't deny that the focus has to be on the Cup competitions and Manchester City have a huge game against Real Madrid to come this week which could be a big distraction on the day.

They might be facing Leicester City at the right time though with Brendan Rodgers' team just struggling for consistent results in recent weeks. However The Foxes will be able to put their full power into winning this game and that could see them extend their recent strong run against Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester City will look to counter attack and there is no doubt that Manchester City remain vulnerable at the back. The visitors do create chances, but they will offer Leicester City chances and if there are changes made with the Real Madrid tie in mind it may give the home team more of an edge.

I have to be concerned by their record against the top two this season as Leicester City have lost all 3 of those games and two by wide margins. However the situation may just give them a chance in this one and I think Leicester City might have enough in them to earn a positive result so backing them with a start on the Asian Handicap looks to be the play.

Manchester United v Watford Pick: This is a very important game for both Manchester United and Watford who will know they can't afford to keep dropping points as they enter the final quarter of the Premier League season. The home team are still very much hoping to return to the Champions League, while Watford are desperate to avoid the drop and so the three points available on Sunday are very important to both.

Since Watford earned a 1-1 draw at Brighton two weeks ago they have been on their Winter Break while Manchester United have played at Chelsea and Club Brugge. It could mean Watford are fresher, but some teams have struggled with this first time Winter Break and Nigel Pearson will be demanding a big performance from his team.

His arrival has seen Watford's performances improve, but they have not won any of their last 5 games in all competitions. The Hornets have not won any of their last 4 in the Premier League, but they have led in each of the last 3 games and somehow managed to lose two of those.

It will have knocked some of the confidence from the players and I do think that could play a part here. Manchester United will restore some key players, although I am always a touch concerned in backing the home team when you think of how they play against teams who will look to sit in and make things difficult as I imagine Watford will try and do.

However Watford have struggled for clean sheets and they are giving up too many chances for Nigel Pearson's liking. So even a low block defence may not be enough to contain Manchester United who will have Bruno Fernandes back in the line up to produce the creativity that has sometimes been lacking for the home team.

Goals have been a problem for Manchester United too and that is another factor that can't be easily put aside. They have beaten Watford 8 times in a row at Old Trafford though and I do think the match fitness may see the home team being a little sharper on the day and they can find a way to break down this Watford team.

Backing the home team to win a game featuring two or more goals looks the play considering Watford's recent poor performances at the back.

Wolves v Norwich City Pick: After dismissing the challenge of Espanyol on Thursday night, Wolves will be looking to keep another avenue into the Champions League open to themselves by seeing off another club that is bottom in one of the top European Leagues.

This fixture is against Norwich City who have looked overmatched when it comes to the Premier League and who need to find wins sooner rather than later. The Canaries are as healthy in the squad as they have been at any point this season, but they are struggling at both ends of the field and I do think a team like Wolves can expose those issues.

Wolves are not an easy team to back simply because they can be a little lacking in the final third. They are hard to beat, but Wolves don't score a lot of goals even with the 4-0 win over Espanyol in mind and I do think that makes them a hard back at times.

Despite that, I do think Wolves can hurt Norwich City with the attacking players they can call upon.

Norwich City might have their moments if they can play as they did against Newcastle United prior to their Winter Break, but Wolves are a much more solid team all around than Steve Bruce's team. I expect that to show up here and I think backing Wolves to win a game featuring two or more goals has to be the call.

Arsenal v Everton Pick: The home team have picked up a couple of big results this week which has to give them confidence, but Everton are playing well enough to offer a lot more threat than Newcastle United or Olympiacos posed to Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta has made Arsenal tougher to beat which means the layers are about right to have them as favourites, but I would not rule out Everton getting a result here.

Arsenal have not been dominant in front of goal under their new manager and that has led to a lot of draws. They have shown a little more defensive resiliency which makes this a difficult game to predict, while the layers are well on top of the 'Both Teams to Score' and 'Over 2.5 Goals' markets.

Again I would not be surprised if this game ends in a draw, but I don't think there is an angle to recommend here.

Liverpool v West Ham United Pick: There have been a couple of signs that Liverpool are just struggling through the full ninety minutes of fixtures at the moment as they try and maintain the standards they have been setting for the last twelve months.

A battling win at Norwich City was followed by an uninspired defeat at Atletico Madrid, but Liverpool have had almost a full week to prepare for this fixture.

That should help as they look to bounce back and if David Moyes employs the same tactics he did at Manchester City on Wednesday it is going to be a one sided game for much of the evening. Liverpool will be happy if West Ham United sit back as this is not a team who have been that strong at the back and unlikely to prevent chances like Atletico Madrid do.

It will be good preparation for the Second Leg of the Champions League Last 16 tie, but I also think Liverpool will want a reaction to a defeat. They have scored four times in each of the last two West Ham United visits to Anfield and I think the home team will be too good here.

Liverpool have won 9 games in a row here and the last 7 have come with a clean sheet. They have sometimes done just enough to secure the points and backing them to win another fixture with a clean sheet looks a good price at close to odds against and especially if West Ham United are as negative as they were on Wednesday evening at Manchester City.

MY PICKS: Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Burnley-Bournemouth Both Teams to Score @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sheffield United-Brighton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa + 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City + 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Wolves & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.86 Coral (2 Units)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

February 2019/208-10, - 3.74 Units (36 Units Staked, - 10.39% Yield)
January 2019/205-12, - 14.66 Units (34 Units Staked, - 43.12% Yield)
December 2019/2016-14, - 0.58 Units (60 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
November 2019/209-16, - 12.66 Units (50 Units Staked, - 25.32% Yield)
October 2019/2016-14-2, + 6.14 Units (62 Units Staked, + 9.90% Yield)
September 2019/2013-9-1, + 8.82 Units (46 Units Staked, + 19.17% Yield)
August 2019/2014-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football GameWeek 27
The Winter Break caused problems for managers as the Fourth Round FA Cup Replays were scheduled to be played at a time when some Premier League clubs were supposed to be having the break promised to them.

It was also not ideal for FPL players who have had a long wait between GameWeek 26 and 27 and during that time there have been some key players that have gone down with injuries which could be important to any decisions on transfers that need to be made.

My choices are fairly simple with a couple of members of the squad needing to be moved out, while we have yet to hear about any potential DGWs that are going to be played later this season. Those games won't really come to light until the FA Cup Fifth Round is completed, although I think it should be noted that we may get very late notice for an earlier than expected DGW if Manchester City make it through to the FA Cup Quarter Final.

It would mean Manchester City have potentially three games to make up and there would only be two potential midweeks to come after the March international break if the team continue to progress in the Champions League too. This issue is something to keep in mind, although you would also have to factor in the potential rotation that Pep Guardiola will use in the Premier League down the stretch as they are almost assured of finishing in the top four, but also out of the title race.

My GW27 Team
I might have gotten it slightly wrong in GW26 by removing John Lundstram from my squad considering he came on and scored the winning goal against Bournemouth, but the long-term starting prospects of the cult Fantasy Player means it is the right play for me.

The next player out of the squad is going to be Pablo Fornals who is out of favour with David Moyes at West Ham United. The fixture list for West Ham United was unappealing anyway, but not getting any minutes makes this an easy choice for the Free Transfer I have this week.

My main plan for the rest of the season remains the use of the Free Hit in GW31 and that means I can pick a short-term option for Fornals. The likes of Wolves, Leicester City and Newcastle United have perhaps the most favourable fixture list which includes fixtures in GW28, an important weekend when four of the twenty Premier League teams will not be in action.

The choice I ended up making is picking Adama Traore who is cheaper than Fornals and means I can stick with my plan of upgrading Troy Deeney if I choose to do that next week. I am still toying with the idea of removing Jack Grealish who will be having a blank week, especially with the fixtures Aston Villa have coming up, but the potential make up game with Sheffield United could be played before GW31 if the latter progress in the FA Cup and I think Deeney may be the next player on the way out of the squad.

I will have more on that next week.

Alisson- home game against West Ham United, easy choice even if I had to make one.

Harry Maguire- scored last week to go with a clean sheet for some huge points. Home game against Watford presents a chance for another clean sheet.

Enda Stevens- I think the Sheffield United game against Brighton might be more entertaining than the layers think, but a home clean sheet would not be a massive surprise.

Federico Fernandez- tough away game, but I feel Newcastle United have a better chance of a clean sheet than Serge Aurier and Caglar Soyuncu.

Adama Traore- brought in and has been a revelation for Wolves who look to be entering a favourable stretch in their fixture list.

Mohamed Salah (C)- home game against West Ham United makes the Egyptian an easy choice as Captain.

Kevin De Bruyne- a big game with Real Madrid to come during the week which may see Manchester City rotate the squad, but the Belgian is a key figure for them and should get 60-70 minutes.

Jack Grealish- Aston Villa need their Captain to perform and they are facing a porous defence Southampton bring.

James Ward-Prowse- hasn't produced as many points as I would have liked and Southampton been a little weak in the final third in recent games which makes him a vulnerable member of my squad.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin- an away game at Arsenal is tough on paper, but Everton have been playing well and the young English player has been in great form under Carlo Ancelotti.

Roberto Firmino- hasn't scored a League goal at Anfield in a long time, but as good a chance to snap hat run as he will have when facing West Ham United.

Bench- Michael McGovern, Serge Aurier (tough away game at Stamford Bridge), Troy Deeney (I won't rule out a Watford goal at Old Trafford, but it won't be easy), Caglar Soyuncu (maybe a better chance of a clean sheet than I think considering Manchester City's recent results and upcoming match against Real Madrid, but I like the other two outfield subs a bit more).

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Tennis Picks 2020 (February 20th)

What a terrible week this one has been!

That's the biggest takeaway I can have with so many bad breaks that is beginning to feel like I've run over ten black cats and walked under a hundred ladders.

An eleven month season is going to have the ups and downs, but this is far below the standards I have set for the last two and a half seasons and I will be looking at Thursday as potentially being the last day of Tennis Picks for this week if things keep going into the 'weird zone'.

At some point the strong numbers that continue to be returned have to produce more winners than losers, but I am not into chasing a bad beat and so another poor day on Thursday will mean I will look to reset and get back to the Tennis Picks at the start of next week.

Let's see how it goes and whether this week is just one coming out of the Twilight Zone.

Daniil Medvedev - 3.5 games v Jannik Sinner: In the years ahead once the 'Big Three' have perhaps hung up their racquets, it would not be a major surprise to see Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner taking on one another at the business end of the Grand Slams. Both look talented enough to win Major prizes, although it is clear that Medvedev is someway further down the line in his career than his Italian opponent.

That is not a major surprise when you think that Daniil Medvedev is five years older than Sinner and the Russian has already reached the Final of a Grand Slam tournament when doing that at the US Open last September. Daniil Medvedev might be a little disappointed with his performance at the Australian Open last month and he was beaten in his first match in Rotterdam last week, but I expect better from him as he gets set to play this Second Round match in Marseille.

At the end of the day the numbers have remained strong for Medvedev and he can play at a level that may be tough to match for Jannik Sinner despite the obvious talent the Italian player has. A solid win in the First Round will have made Sinner feel good after a good run at Rotterdam last week, but there is still some inconsistency in his play which is not a massive surprise as he finds his feet at a higher level than the Challenger and Qualifying events that Sinner was formerly playing at.

So far in 2020 Jannik Sinner has won 62% of his service points played and he has held in 77% of his service games played on the hard courts which are reasonable marks, but nothing that should intimidate Daniil Medvedev. His return game is up alongside the very best on the ATP Tour and breaks in 29% of return games played on this surface suggests he will be able to at least put Sinner under some real pressure.

There is a real difference in the way the two players have been returning on the Tour and Jannik Sinner has struggled to a break in 19% of return games played on this surface. That might be good enough against some opponents, but against someone who can return serve like Daniil Medvedev can then it is a mark that can be exposed.

I think this will be a good match with some strong tennis played by both, but you do have to think Daniil Medvedev can edge out Jannik Sinner with at least one break more in each of the two sets that are likely needed to be played in this Second Round match.

Marin Cilic v Denis Shapovalov: 2019 was a difficult year for Marin Cilic, but he has looked like he could have a bounce back year this time around. The Croatian is back for the first time since the Australian Open where he reached the Fourth Round and he came from a set down to deservedly move into the Second Round here in Marseille.

The match up is much tougher in this Round, but Denis Shapovalov has been struggling for his form. The young Canadian is a definite star going forward, but he has lost four matches in a row which includes defeats in his first match played in both Montpellier and Rotterdam.

Those will have dented some of the confidence and Shapovalov has really been struggling in a number of facets of his game. Despite winning 65% of service points behind serve, the Canadian is holding in 80% of the games being played which is putting a lot of pressure on a return game which has still got a lot of room for improvement.

Over the last twelve months Denis Shapovalov has broken in 16% of return games played on the hard courts, but that number has slipped to 9% in 2020 which is not going to win too many matches. He has not been creating too many break point opportunities in recent matches and that is a real concern, although Denis Shapovalov did crush Marin Cilic when these two met at Indian Wells eleven months ago.

That came at a time when Shapovalov looked to be in better form overall though and Marin Cilic has opened 2020 in decent shape. He is serving very well which can at least keep his younger opponent under the cosh and Cilic has broken in 19% of return games which is considerably better than the mark Denis Shapovalov has produced in the last seven weeks.

It could be the key to the outcome of this match and I do think Marin Cilic can be backed as the underdog in this Second Round match in Marseille. At some point Denis Shapovalov will get back to winning ways and producing solid runs in events, but Marin Cilic may have enough of an edge here on both the serve and return to just get over the line and move into the Friday Quarter Final.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Juame Munar: A return to the clay courts will be welcomed by Juame Munar, but even then it has been a difficult time for the Spaniard during the South American Golden Swing. He has been struggling for consistency, and Munar will know the kind of test that is in front of him when facing an opponent who has reached multiple French Open Finals on this surface.

Dominic Thiem is playing in his first tournament since coming up a little short in the Australian Open Final last month as he could not quite convert a 2-1 lead in sets to a first Slam title. It is no surprise he has taken a couple of weeks off from the Tour to recharge the mental batteries more than anything else as Thiem managed to win some big matches Down Under before finding Novak Djokovic just a little too good on the day.

He is a usual name we see when the Golden Swing hits South America and Thiem will be pleased he was pushed a little bit on the First Round here in Rio de Janeiro as it will have got the competitive spirit bubbling. Dominic Thiem was still largely dominant against a local prospect and the Austrian has been able to get a lot out of his serve on the clay courts which has always put opponents under pressure to try and respond.

To really step up and perhaps win a Grand Slam on the clay courts you might want to see Thiem pick up his level on the return of serve. On this surface you would like to think he can improve the 29% mark of return games in which Thiem has broken serve and that will be especially important just to make life easier in some matches.

This could be a match in which we see that as Dominic Thiem has beaten Juame Munar twice before on the clay courts and has managed to break serve in 42% of return games played. At the same time he has barely been threatened on his own serve by the Spaniard and nothing we have seen so far in 2020 gives much encouragement for Munar here.

Juame Munar is holding just 68% of the service games played on the clay courts in 2020 and over the last twelve months that number is 75%. While that is ok against many, it doesn't bode well against someone like Thiem who has managed to get himself into comfortable positions in the head to head between them.

Borna Coric - 3.5 games v Thiago Seyboth Wild: There are a number of younger players on the ATP Tour who have looked like they are close to breaking through and giving the 'Big Three' players something new to think about. Others have flashed their potential, but could be left behind as the 'Next Gen' continues to develop and I do think 2020 is an important season for Borna Coric.

There is no doubting the talent that Coric possesses, but at 23 years old he needs to have a bounce back from what was an injury hit and loss of form 2019. It was a season much below the kind of level the Croatian had produced in 2018 and a poor start to 2020 is not very encouraging.

Over the last twelve months the clay courts have proven to be his most effective surface so this Golden Swing in South America is an important time for Borna Coric. An early loss in Buenos Aires was very disappointing, but Coric had a very good win over Juan Ignacio Londero in the First Round here in Rio and that should give him a boost to take into this Second Round match where he is a significant favourite to progress.

Borna Coric won't just be battling someone across the court from him, but Thiago Seyboth Wild is going to have plenty of support from his compatriots in this match. The youngster is turning 20 years old next month, but Seyboth Wild has yet to really make an impact on the Tour that he would have liked and his clay court numbers are largely fairly average despite playing at a lower level than the one he will see in Rio for the majority of his career.

Thiago Seyboth Wild did have a win as an underdog in the First Round, but it was a very close match against some Ranked considerably lower down the World Rankings than Borna Coric. The Brazilian was on the court for almost four hours which is incredible and Seyboth Wild is going to be challenged by Borna Coric who has the stronger serve and the superior returning on this surface.

This is also the first time Seyboth Wild is going to be taking on an opponent Ranked inside the top 50 of the World Rankings and the step up might be too much with fatigue a potential issue too. I think Borna Coric will be better for the win over a solid clay courter in Londero a couple of days ago and he can win this match and cover a big looking mark for someone who has been in mixed form.

MY PICKS: Daniil Medvedev - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Marin Cilic @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Borna Coric - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dusan Lajovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aryna Sabalenka - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-13, - 19.48 Units (34 Units Staked, - 57.29% Yield)

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Tennis Picks 2020 (February 19th)

I've had a much busier Tuesday evening than I envisioned and that means I have not been able to put my thoughts down for any of the Tennis Picks I have for Wednesday.

It was a difficult Tuesday with three selections all losing and another ending in a retirement with the Pick being in a strong position. My one disappointment so far this season is that three of the four weeks in which I have made Tennis Picks have now started with a losing record.

Thankfully the other two times it has happened I have managed to turn things around with the process being trusted, but I do think it can be a difficult position from which to recover if it keeps happening and so I will be looking for much better starts to the week going forward.

Below you can see the Tennis Picks from the Second Round matches that are set to be played on Wednesday and I have updated the weekly totals. I will be back with a fuller post for the Thursday selections and hopefully with more winners being produced than not.

MY PICKS: Petra Martic - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 Games @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Elena Rybakina - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Elise Mertens @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 4.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dennis Novak @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Pablo Andujar - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-6, - 8.74 Units (16 Units Staked, - 54.63% Yield)

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Tennis Picks 2020 (February 18th)

There are always going to be some ups and downs over the course of eleven months when you are making daily Tennis Picks from the Tour.

That was the case on Monday, although the frustration of being able to pick two players who ended up dominating the break point chances but did not win or cover will have hurt. To make it more disappointing, the fact that neither player lost more points than their opponent in their First Round matches will have really stung.

However it wasn't a complete write off of a day and there is plenty of chances to turn the week around. I have had slow starts and ended up with winning weeks already in 2020 and I will be looking for this week to do the same without chasing anything.

Over the last thirty months the system used has worked well to provide big profits and I will look to keep that going as long as it continues to be successful.

There are a lot of matches to come on Tuesday as the majority of First Round matches in the four tournaments being played are set to get onto the courts. However I have found selections hard to come by in Dubai and Marseille and any Tennis Picks from Rio de Janeiro and Delray Beach will be added to this thread.

Elina Svitolina - 1.5 games v Jennifer Brady: Playing over in Thailand and travelling to Dubai might not be ideal, but Elina Svitolina should have had enough time to adjust from the flight and the changing time zone. More worrying for the Ukrainian may be the continued slow start made to the 2020 season which saw her upset in the Quarter Final in Hua Hin a few days ago.

Being back in these surroundings may also help Elina Svitolina who has won the title here in 2017 and 2018 and last season was a Semi Finalist. The conditions should suit her game, but Svitolina will know she has to be stronger if she is going to have another good run in Dubai.

A loaded main draw means there are not likely to be too many easy matches for any player heading into this tournament. With that in mind Elina Svitolina can't afford to make a slow start when facing off against American Jennifer Brady who has been a comfortable hard court player and made a good start to the 2020 season and with three Qualifying wins in Dubai to give her further confidence.

The Brady serve has been a big weapon for her and makes her dangerous for any opponent to face, although I do think the overall numbers are aided by facing a number of lower Ranked players already in 2020. Jennifer Brady does have a win over Ashleigh Barty this season which has to be respected, but her service numbers are significantly down from the overall mark when considering matches against top 50 Ranked opponents alone.

In this First Round match Brady is facing an opponent who is a decent return player on the hard courts and I think Elina Svitolina will be able to at least make her mark on the return games. The bigger question might be about the Svitolina serve which has been a struggle in the opening seven weeks of the season, although I do expect her to be aided by the relatively poor return numbers Jennifer Brady has had against those top 50 Ranked opponents that have been faced.

These two have met once before back in 2016, but that match should not have a major impact on the way this one goes. Conditions in Dubai might help Jennifer Brady if she gets into a strong rhythm serving, but I do think Elina Svitolina should have enough about her to come through with a win and a cover.

I do think the Brady return game may hinder her chances of an upset in the First Round, although it might need three competitive sets to get the job done for the higher Ranked players.

Belinda Bencic - 1.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: The top of the WTA Rankings move all the time, but I was still a little surprised to see Belinda Bencic at Number 4 in the World. The start to 2020 has not really backed up that World Ranking and another relatively early loss in St Petersburg means the Swiss player will be looking for a bounce back in Dubai.

Playing in this tournament means accepting that there are no easy matches and Bencic has been put together with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the First Round. The Russian has never quite done enough to crack the top 10 of the World Rankings in her career and she is down at Number 31 coming into this tournament, but Pavlyuchenkova did reach the Quarter Final at the Australian Open last month.

She is playing her first tournament since Melbourne, but the strong showing there will give Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova confidence after beating two top 20 Ranked opponents in the first Grand Slam of the season. However it does have to be said that her numbers to open 2020 have continued to be relatively average on the hard courts and that should give Belinda Bencic the chance to put a good win on the board.

We all know that Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has a very good first serve that can set up some easy points, and she has been getting a high percentage of first serves in play which makes her a bit more dangerous. That is doubled up by the fact that Belinda Bencic can be a little disappointing when it comes to the return, although the head to head shows the Swiss player seemingly gets a better read of what Pavlyuchenkova is trying to do with the serve.

Those head to heads lean heavily in favour of Bencic who has won two of the three previous hard court matches between these players too. In the last two Bencic has created a lot more break points and I do think her serve could be the superior shot in this match too which gives her the chance to win and cover the line on her way through to the Second Round.

Her early season form is a touch disappointing, but the numbers are being hurt by two one-sided losses and in the last week in St Petersburg Belinda Bencic looked to be turning her form. With the head to head and the successes she has had on the return compared with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, I will look for the top ten player to win here.

Karen Khachanov - 2.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: There might be quite a few matches scheduled to be played in Marseille on Tuesday, but the only First Round match that fits the criteria for my Tennis Picks comes from the last one that is scheduled to be played.

Both Aljaz Bedene and Karen Khachanov will feel they can have a strong run in the tournament if they can come through this First Round match. There is enough to like from their early season form to believe they can get this done too, although it is Khachanov who may have the mental edge having won all three previous matches between these players, albeit all of them coming on the clay courts.

Those matches were also played at a time when Khachanov was still making his initial breakthrough on the Tour, but he is now an established top 20 Ranked player. The Russian may have had some of the limelight taken away by the performances of Daniil Medvedev over the last six months, and Karen Khachanov has not played as well in opening tournaments as he would have liked, but the numbers have been solid enough.

He will be disappointed that he is not getting a little more out of the serve having opened 2020 with holds of serve in 83% of games played on the hard courts. Where Karen Khachanov has played well is in return games having produced breaks of serve in 22% of return games which is significantly better than Aljaz Bedene's mark.

If the Bedene return was a little stronger he would have a much better record than his 5-5 hard court record so far this week, but confidence should be high having beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas last week in Rotterdam. He might not be one of the taller players on the Tour, but Bedene has got a lot out of his serve and that has led to 87% of service games being held to open the season.

The numbers on that side are strong and need to be respected, but it has been tougher over the last twelve months when facing top 50 Ranked opponents on the hard courts. I do have to respect the fact that Aljaz Bedene's serve has been tough to break down, but I also think the slightly superior returning of Karen Khachanov can see him use his own serve to pressure the Slovenian into potentially giving up a couple of chances to break.

It will be important for Karen Khachanov to serve well and perhaps break down any confidence that Aljaz Bedene picked up last week in Rotterdam, but he can do that and that might be key to the outcome of this one. The Russian can use his power and success as Marseille Champion in 2018 to give him the edge in this First Round match.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Miomir Kecmanovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-3, - 2.74 Units (10 Units Staked, - 27.40% Yield)

Monday, 17 February 2020

Tennis Picks 2020 (February 17th)

In 2019 I begun the season with a strong run of winning weeks on which the foundation for the season successes were built upon. That followed a strong finish to 2018 to put another profitable season in the books and I was hoping the 2020 season would see a good opening put together too.

Thanks to a couple of weeks ending strongly and a pretty consistent last week it has been the case and a third winning week of tournaments was produced at the end of the previous set of events.

A 3-1 Saturday from the Semi Final Tennis Picks ensured another positive week was produced, but there is no time to pat ourselves on the back as a new game begins on Monday.

This week we have two important tournaments being played, one each on the ATP and WTA Tours- the former have an ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro on the clay courts, while the top names on the WTA Tour head to the Middle East for the first of two important events as a Premier Event is played in Dubai before a bigger event in Doha next week.

Without a doubt the biggest news story going into this set of tournaments has to be the return of Kim Clijsters at 36 years old. The last time we saw this multiple time Grand Slam Champion was back at the US Open in 2012, but Clijsters announced she was looking to return to the Tour and a slight delay to the time frame means she is back and ready to go in Dubai.

This is a big tournament so it is no surprise she has been handed a very tough opening match, but the layers might be off with their prices and Kim Clijsters is hard to ignore with a 6.5 game head start.  I won't be going with her as the rhythm may be a little off, but this is a top player and we have seen Kim Clijsters come back from some time away from the Tour and still return to close to her very best tennis.

Of course at 36 years old it is a lot different when doing the same in your mid-20s, but I wish Clijsters the very best and I hope she gets all she wants out of her return to the Tour.

In a lot of the weeks on the Tour we do see the early days of the tournaments being filled with Qualifiers being completed and a shortage of matches can mean a shortage of Tennis Picks. That may not be the case this week with the tournament in Dubai concluding on a Saturday, while there are three other events in Marseille, Delray Beach and Rio de Janeiro that are also getting underway.

Any selections from the tournaments in North and South America will be added to this thread and you can also see the updated season totals for the Tennis Picks below.

Amanda Anisimova - 3.5 games v Barbora Strycova: 2019 was a difficult year for the 18 year old Amanda Anisimova who is a supreme talent on the WTA Tour. She did reach the French Open Semi Final and was beaten by the eventual Champion Ashleigh Barty, but injuries hurt in the second half of the year.

Nothing would have prepared the American for the unexpected passing of her father who had been a huge influence on her career and I think Amanda Anisimova has to be given some space to get over that. While it is never going to be easy to lose a parent, Amanda Anisimova has come into the 2020 season looking to fulfil the promise her father felt she had and I do think the current World Number 29 is as talented as any youngster on the Tour.

It has not been the most ideal beginnings to the new season with the early loss at the Australian Open particularly disappointing. However over the last couple of years we have seen the kind of potential Anisimova has on the Tour and she has played well enough on the hard courts to believe she can get the better of the veteran Barbora Strycova.

A strong 2019 overall has helped the Czech player improve to Number 30 in the World Rankings, but Strycova has had her main success as a Doubles player and reached Number 1 in those Rankings. Even with that in mind, Strycova has constantly mentioned retirement even while reaching the Wimbledon Semi Final and it was still on her mind before the 2020 season begun.

That has perhaps contributed to a 1-3 start to the season on the hard courts as Strycova plays her first Singles tournament since the Australian Open too. Over the last year Barbora Strycova has found it more and more difficult in hard court matches as she has perhaps lost some of the energy around the court and a relatively vulnerable serve now looks more exposed when you think of the downward trend on her returning numbers.

While the Amanda Anisimova serve has not been operating at full tilt in 2020, she is definitely the stronger returner of the two players having won 47% points against serve compared with Barbora Strycova's 42% mark so far. Even looking back over a twelve month period you can see the Anisimova return has been superior and I also believe her serve is more likely to set up a couple more holds than the Strycova one which gives the young American the edge.

These two players met a little over two years ago when it was the veteran who was higher Ranked, but I do think Amanda Anisimova is much improved from when she beat Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-3 in Auckland and I will look for her to win and cover here.

Alison Riske - 1.5 games v Ons Jabeur: When these two players last met a little over two years ago, both Alison Riske and Ons Jabeur had to enter Qualifiers to earn a spot at some of the biggest tournaments on the Tour. At that tournament in Miami, Riske and Jabeur were both Ranked outside the top 100 in the World Rankings, but times have changed for both.

In fact both players enter this tournament at a career best World Ranking with Alison Riske at Number 18 and Ons Jabeur at Number 45. The latter reached the Australian Open Quarter Final last month and, at 25 years old, Ons Jabeur will feel she is ready to take another step in her career.

Alison Riske was unfortunate to lose her Fourth Round match at the Australian Open last month, but she is playing with confidence. Her hard court numbers are a touch disappointing in recent years as you would expect most North American players to be very comfortable on the surface, but Riske has opened 2020 in fine form and I do think she is going to have a slight edge in the match which can see her move through to the Second Round.

Confidence won't be an issue for Ons Jabeur either after playing so well in Melbourne, but her overall hard court numbers are inflated by facing some overmatched opponents who are not Ranked inside the top 100. The Tunisian rode her luck a little bit in her run at the Australian Open and the hard court numbers are not as impressive when focusing on the level of opponent she has been facing.

It is the serve which has proven to be vital for Jabeur in the early part of 2020 and it will be interesting to see if she can maintain numbers which are significantly better than what we have seen from her in recent years. The second serve in particular has been strong for this player, although the return numbers have remained steady and so there will be pressure on Jabeur to make sure she keeps serving at the level she has opened in 2020.

The Alison Riske serve can be a little hit and miss, but she has been returning very well and it is a part of her game that is a touch stronger than Jabeur's. It might prove to be the return of serve that can help Riske beat Jabeur for the second time in their professional meetings and I am going to look for the American player to do just enough behind her own serve to cover this line even if the match needs three sets to separate them.

Marketa Vondrousova - 3.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: The final First Round match being played in Dubai on Monday features two players who have both been on the brink of cracking the top 10 of the World Rankings in their career. However things have been a little more difficult for Anastasija Sevastova in recent months which has seen her drop out of the top 40 in the World Rankings.

The Latvian lost her opening four matches in 2020, but stunned Serena Williams in a Fed Cup match earlier this month. That victory has to give her some confidence, but Sevastova will have to find her rhythm very quickly in this match against a young Czech player who looks like she is still improving in each passing week.

Marketa Vondrousova has not had the best start to 2020 and she might be much more comfortable on the clay courts, but 2019 showed she is more than capable of playing on this surface too. The lefty serve will give her an edge against opponents, although we have yet to see that this season, while Vondrousova has been returning well and can at least pressure Sevastova.

A part of the reason we may have seen a slower start to 2020 for Marketa Vondrousova is the lay off from the Tour after Wimbledon last year, but she looks like she does have room for improvement on the start made.

The two players actually have very similar numbers behind serve to open the season, but Vondrousova has a clear edge when it comes to the return of serve and that could be evident in this match. Conditions will be a lot different compared with when they played at Roland Garros in 2019, but we did see Marketa Vondrousova dominate that match thanks to her return of serve and over the last twelve months the younger player has won 48% of return points played on this surface compared with the 41% mark Anastasija Sevastova has produced.

Dubai has tended to be amongst the faster hard courts we see on the Tour and that may aid Anastasija Sevastova, but I do think Marketa Vondrousova is the stronger player. Breaks of serve might be coming at a high rate in this one, but I will look for the superior returning of the Czech youngster to prove to be a difference on the day and lead to a good looking win.

Benoit Paire - 1.5 games v Gregoire Barrere: The third indoor hard court of the month in Europe begins in Marseille this week and two Frenchmen meet in the First Round looking to begin a strong run at the event. Out of the two players it is Gregoire Barrere who has at least put some wins on the board since the end of the Australian Open as Benoit Paire tries to snap a three match losing run.

Benoit Paire has dropped back to Number 20 in the World Rankings and he will need a good run to just turn things back around having fallen in the First Round at the tournaments in Pune and Rotterdam. In the main it has been a decent enough start to 2020 for Paire, but his hard court numbers remain fairly average and that usually makes him a favourite that I am not interested in backing.

However this feels like a match in which he might be a touch under-rated when taking on a compatriot who has produced a lot of recent wins against opponents he would be expecting to beat. When Gregoire Barrere has stepped up to take on top 100 Ranked opponents on the hard courts in 2020 he drops to 5-5 in those matches and his numbers are not that impressive.

Both players have very similar successes behind the serve, but it is Paire who holds a real advantage when it comes to the break of serve and that could prove to be critical in his favour. Gregoire Barrere has broken in just 18% of return games when playing against top 100 Ranked opponents on the hard courts so far this season compared with Benoit Paire's mark 24% against top 100 Ranked opponents.

That difference on the return might just be enough to believe the higher Ranked Frenchman can win this match and the prices has shortened on Benoit Paire since the opening odds were released.

Benoit Paire will also hold a mental edge having beaten Gregoire Barrere twice before including a win on an indoor hard court in Metz last year. In that last match Paire might only have earned one more break of serve than Barrere in the match, but he was winning 10% more points on the return than his compatriot and that is a significant edge.

I will admit that Benoit Paire can be a hard player to trust with a tendency to be very inconsistent within sets, let alone matches or weeks on the Tour. The three matches lost in a row will have hurt, but he is playing someone in Gregoire Barrere who has yet to really get going on the main Tour and the superior returning of the higher Ranked player is set to give him the advantage.

Marton Fucsovics - 2.5 games v Alexander Bublik: This is an interesting First Round match between a player who looks to be at peak form versus a younger opponent looking to fulfil some potential. Marton Fucsovics has dropped down to Number 73 in the World Rankings, but he has opened the season with an 8-4 record and some solid performances from those matches.

His opponent Alexander Bublik is Number 55 in the World Rankings, but he is 4-5 this season and I am not surprised he is set as the underdog in the match.

Regardless of the Rankings, it is Fucsovics who has been playing the better tennis of the two players. They have similar numbers behind serve, although it is Bublik who has been able to play the bigger points slightly better which has led to a slightly superior percentage of service games being held.

The actual points won behind serve have been similar for both players, but Marton Fucsovics has had a significant edge when it comes to the return. The Hungarian has won 41% of return points compared with Bublik's 35% mark and it has led to an 18% difference in games in which breaks have been secured in favour of Marton Fucsovics.

They are 1-1 from past meetings, but Marton Fucsovics has won their sole hard court meeting and edged the return numbers to get into that position. I have to respect the fact that Alexander Bublik can serve very big when he gets into a rhythm, but at this moment of time it is Fucsovics who has been playing the better tennis and he can move through to the Second Round in Marseille with a win and a cover as the favourite.

MY PICKS: Amanda Anisimova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alison Riske - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marketa Vondrousova - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Marton Fucsovics - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)

Season 2020: + 28.56 Units (279 Units Staked, + 10.24% Yield)